2016: a year in review

I’ve had this blog for five months now. Met some lovely people in the comments. Had visitors from North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Antipodes. On the down side, no curious people from Africa have checked out the blog. Greenland continues to snub me.

I’ve sold a book and turned in the manuscript. While waiting on feedback about my revisions, I worked on another Western romance. In terms of writing, I’d say this has been a good year. But I am ready for it to be 2017 already.

Next year, I am going to have enough time in my writing schedule to go back to my English Victorian novels.

Where do you see yourself in a year? And what plans to you have to make your goals become reality?

J.A. Konrath updates his blog every year with New Year’s Resolutions for Writers.

On the Fear of Finishing Things

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. -Erica Jong

I am so close to finishing the second draft of Geoff and Lia’s story. So, of course, I’m dragging my feet.

Why? Because that means it’s the end of the fun part of writing for me. No more making things up and writing them down. Now I have to send it out into the cold, uncaring world. Other people are going to look at. They might point. They might snicker. They might wonder what kind of sick, demented imagination could think up such a story.

They might even want to buy it.

Oh my.
That is scary.

So I am going to go public. Announce to all the world, or at least as much of the world might be reading these words, that I am going to give myself a deadline. I will finish the second draft by December 20, 2016, 8:06 pm PST.

Now the pressure’s on.


I am being watched.

I used to be afraid to finish a project. Because if I finished one, I’d have to submit it. And if I submitted it, I would have to suffer through the first of what would surely be fifty rejections, because that’s what EVERY writer has to go through, right? And I wasn’t ready for that.

So I didn’t write more than twenty pages of a book. Ever. Because it kept me safe from those rejections.

And what I didn’t realize was that I was rejecting myself. I was making the decision FOR all of those editors.

I finally got the courage to write a book. And I sent it in. And HOLY COW the publisher wanted to buy it.

Maisey Yates

Reasons I stop reading a book

This book should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker

Lately, I have hit a series of DNF books. I used to always finish a book if I started reading it, even if I had to skim the boring bits to find out whodunit. Maybe I’m getting less patient as I get older. Life is too short to read bad books.

Note: all these books were fairly popular, so clearly other people liked them a lot. They just didn’t work for me.

Book #1: Category Romance about an arrogant millionaire and a beautiful innocent young woman. (Not usually my cuppa, but it was free and the author is popular. I thought I could study what made her so successful.)

Where I stopped: Page five.

Why I stopped: I loathed both characters from the start. He was domineering to the point of being abusive right in the first paragraph. When he belittled her and ordered her about, she found herself becoming turned on despite (or because?) he was so unpleasant. Get thee both to a therapist.

What might have fixed it: Some redeeming quality, even one little scrap of kindness or courtesy, shown within the first few pages.

Book #2: Self published “lightly paranormal” romantic comedy.

Where I stopped:The Kindle reader was at 15%.

Why I stopped: The heroine herself had no goals. I mean it. No goals at all. This woman didn’t want so much as a drink of water. Random wonderful-but-strange events happened to her, but she didn’t care enough to try to find out if they were connected. She apparently wanted nothing out of life. Why should I care about her life if she didn’t?

What might have fixed it: If the heroine had wanted something, anything. Chuck Wendig wrote a good explanation of why this is important.

Book #3: Traditionally published Inspirational novel

Where I stopped: The Kindle reader was at 13%.

Why I stopped: The writing. It was very awkward.

For example, one sentence described a character prancing across the room while her hair bounced and her beige suit complemented her white teeth.

My problems with this sentence:
1) No grown woman should prance unless she’s doing a My Little Pony impersonation.
2) Even if the woman were doing a My Little Pony impersonation, no sentence should be asked to include the fact that she is prancing while her hair is bouncing and her suit is complementing. It’s way too much action for one poor sentence to bear.
3) When I read that a suit complements something, I assume the writer means the colors were complementary; they didn’t clash. But what clashes with white? Or with beige for that matter? It doesn’t make sense. And who coordinates their clothing with their teeth in the first place? I’ve got to back away from this sentence. It’s driving me crazy.

What might have fixed it: An editor who stood firm when the writer wanted to stet sentences like the above. The original idea was intriguing enough to keep me reading for a few chapters.

I really do want to finish a book when I start reading, but it was useful analyzing why these books didn’t work for me. I’ve written awkward sentences, passive heroines, unlikeable heroes, but it’s easier to see these errors in someone else’s works. Hopefully, this will help me avoid them in the future.

Here’s another writer’s list of reasons why  she loathed certain books.

Have you had a DNF book lately? Why did you stop reading?


Good news… but you didn’t hear it from me

Confetti in Toronto
Good: I just learned that I won a contest.

Bad: I can’t tell anyone about it, not the name of the contest, nor the editor who was the final judge, nothing.

Good: The editor requested the full manuscript.

Better: She is the second editor to request a full for this manuscript.

Bad: I need to rewrite it before I can show the whole thing to anyone besides a cat.


Critic Cat Is Not Impressed

On the plus side, I should finish the final read through of the manuscript I wrote for the Manuscript Matchmaker contest by Sunday. I think I got all the requested tweaks revised the way they should be, but I am trusting my kind editor to tell me if I need to go back in and revise some more. Knowing that I have another editor waiting for another manuscript is good motivation to not slack off on the current work.

A Different Perspective

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
– Pablo Neruda, Your Laughter

I have been revising my current manuscript for so long that I cannot see it clearly. I want to finish, I want to be done with this story — I have new stories to write! — but right now I am too close to the story to see it. I need to stop staring at the words.

What do you do when you’re too close to a story? How do you clear your head?

Metaphor soup, or thoughts about revising a story

When I first looked at the list of all the things I needed to revise in this manuscript, I was daunted. The list of fixes loomed before me like an impenetrable barrier, a huge wall blocking my way forward.

Now that I’ve been chipping away at the revisions, it’s starting to feel a lot more doable. I’ve cut it down to size. Or gotten my head in the game. Not sure what metaphor fits here, but I don’t want to revise this paragraph again. I need to get back to the manuscript.


These guys are either thinking “Wow! Isn’t it cool we’ve come this far!” or Helllllllp!

One really great thing that I’ve found while doing these revisions is this: I’ve found my way back to the initial seed-idea that started me writing it, the thing that I found intriguing enough to start pounding the keyboard in the first place. I’m finding ways to layer that original idea back into the story. It had gotten buried in all the different character arcs.
Now that I’ve cleared out the undergrowth somewhat, I can see it again. (Yes, I know, another metaphor thrown into the soup.Maybe it’ll add flavor.)

It’s a lot of work, but it feels like I’m getting somewhere.